New Rideshare Rules Allow Airport Pickups

New rules that will allow rideshare companies such as Uber and Lyft to start making pickups from O'Hare and Midway airports could be in place as early as Nov. 18.

The city of Chicago hopes to raise almost $40 million from fees it will charge rideshare drivers for drop-offs and pickups at the airports, in addition to McCormick Place and Navy Pier.

While some taxi drivers fear the increased competition will badly hurt their business, others worry that it will simply be a logistical nightmare that will exacerbate travel problems. We take a look at the issues involved with Peter Ali Enger, a longtime taxi driver and spokesman for the United Taxi Drivers Community Council, a grassroots organization that represents taxi drivers. 

Is this the beginning of the end for traditional taxi companies in the city?

“A lot of drivers went into rideshare, and they came back because there wasn't enough money in it. There's only a finite, economic pie. The more ways you split that pie, the less money everybody makes.”

–Peter Ali Enger

"We've lost so much of the downtown business: the airport runs in the mornings and the afternoons, the neighborhood rush hours in the morning and afternoons and the weekend partying business, so the airports are one of the last places where drivers know they can go and get a guaranteed ride," Enger said. "And they're willing to go out there and wait two, two and a half hours. On some busy nights, like Thursdays, you'll see a half-mile backup–even into the staging area. If that starts to lessen, it's going to make it harder and harder for the traditional taxi driver to bring in enough income to actually keep this as a full-time occupation."

As to why taxi drivers don't make the switch to rideshare services, Enger said that it's not a lucrative option.

"A lot of drivers went into rideshare, and then they came back because there wasn't enough money in it," he said. "Think about unlimited access: Last February, it was estimated that there were 13,000 Uber drivers; now there's 20,000. In a year and a half, two years, are there going to be 30 or 40,000? There's only a finite, economic pie. The more ways you split that pie, the less money everybody makes.

"We have three big holidays in Chicago: New Year's Eve, Halloween and St. Patrick's Day," he added. "I drove around for three hours and got one fare per hour on Halloween night. The only way to make the same money I was making even a year ago is to drive more hours, and also get a 24-hour lease, which is a substantial increase over what I used to have which is a 12-hour lease for four or five days a week."

Watch the video to hear our full discussion with Enger.

Proposed Rideshare Rules 

Earlier this week the city of Chicago released draft rules for rideshare companies (aka transportation network providers in the city proposal) dropping off and picking up people at Chicago’s airports, McCormick Place and Navy Pier. In addition, rideshare drivers will be required to pay $0.52 tax per ride as well as a $5 surcharge for every pickup or drop off at O’Hare, Midway, McCormick Place or Navy Pier.

At O’Hare Airport’s domestic terminals, rideshare companies can only drop off or pick up passengers on the upper level between Terminals 1 and 2 and Terminals 2 and 3. Once passengers have been dropped off, rideshare drivers must leave O’Hare or proceed to a designated staging area for future dispatch. If drivers arrive at the airport without passengers, they must proceed to the designated staging area and remain in that area until a ride is arranged. 

At O’Hare Airport’s international terminal, rideshare drivers can only pick up rides on the lower level in designated spaces. For pickups, drivers must remain in their vehicles in the staging area until the assigned passenger is at the curb.

At Midway Airport, drivers dropping off passengers must unload them on the upper level. Drivers arriving at Midway without passengers must proceed to the designated staging area until a ride has been arranged and the passenger is at the curb on the upper level near Door One.